The Difference Between Dark and Shiny Baking Pans

Reader Robert wants to know what the practical difference is between shiny baking pans and dark-colored nonstick versions (other than the fact that one is nonstick of course). The main difference, Robert, is that dark colors absorb more heat. That’s as true of pans as it is of clothes, even in the lightless environment of an oven. It’s why a tent of shiny aluminum foil does such a great job of preventing excess browning in a hot oven. It reflects heat energy.

A dark pan does the reverse and that’s not usually a good thing. Dark pans can not only create excess browning on edges, they can contribute to the premature hardening of surface crusts, and that can hold in rising or crust expansion. This is not to say that nonstick can’t be a good thing, however tart and pie crusts are very buttery to begin with. As a result they tend not to have a problem releasing from pans, so in that case the nonstick surface is really unnecessary. Properly prepared, just about any pan can be made to perform like a non-stick pan, so my feeling is that in general you should prefer the lighter finishes. They’re more versatile, cheaper and you never have to worry about the coating wearing off. Thanks for the excellent question. Robert!

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6 Responses to The Difference Between Dark and Shiny Baking Pans

  1. c. says:

    Dark pans have their place. That is in a solar oven. If you bake in a solar oven and do not live in Arizona or a latitude similar then dark pans are the thing to use.

    I use a gray-ish black-ish enamelware pan for most everything in my solar oven and just butter and flour it and most everything comes out excellent. And yes, you can bake in a solar oven. If you do not have airconditioning like moi then the solar oven is ‘da bomb in the summer for keeping heat out of your kitchen.

    Until canning season. Then I’m well and truly screwed but that is another story and another issue. ;)

  2. Karen Lofstrom says:

    I bake my sourdough bread on a rimmed baking sheet that I have been using for years. It has a layer of hard, black seasoning (like my cast-iron skillets). In this case, I think dark is good. Bottom of the bread is probably cooking faster.

    I wouldn’t use this sheet for cookies :)

  3. One of the Toms says:

    I’ve had trouble with my bright, shiny tart pan not cooking the crust sufficiently before the filling is overdone. This was with a caramelized onion and ricotta savory tart recipe that didn’t call for par-baking the crust. So I bought a dark pan hoping to solve the issue without needing to par-bake, but it only made a slight difference. The sides were done, but the bottom was still doughy, and I’ll certainly par-bake for this recipe in the future.

    I’m wondering whether the fact that the filling was savory rather than sweet would affect the way the crust cooks. Would a sweet filling heat up faster?

    • joepastry says:

      Hey Tom!

      The density of the filling would definitely make a difference. Have you tried a baking stone? That, together with making sure your oven is good and hot before you bake, might solve the problem.

      Cheers,

      - Joe

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